Entries Tagged as 'commentary'

#voicestrong courage

#voicestrong for voice agents

History has taught us that it is NOT easy.

Experience has taught us that it is rare.

Life has taught us that it is within each of us in large and small ways…but it IS in there.

The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

– The definition of courage

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History books and movies are great at depicting amazing and even dramatic acts of courage.

But the truth is, in comparatively smaller, even daily acts, courage can be just as profound.

Profound because showing courage in almost any situation is hard.

One example.

To wake up one morning and find that, completely outside of your control, a key profit center of your business has been significantly altered in a way that is antithetical to your core business beliefs is a situation no small business in any industry wants to face.

But that’s what happened this week to hundreds of voiceover talent agencies and casting directors when a Los Angeles-based, central voiceover casting web site announced it had agreed to be acquired by a generally disrespected Pay 2 Play voiceover web site based in Canada. This Canadian company is known for and has admitted siphoning money budgeted for voiceover talent into their own corporate coffers under the guise of project management, unbeknownst to their paying clients.

Putting aside for a moment the ethical dilemma faced by agencies having to consider having business dealings with a disreputable company like that who now controls a key lead generation tool used daily by agencies, for these small business owners there is an important and hard financial decision to be made.

If agencies stay in partnership with this new ownership, they risk working for even lower commissions based on lower fees likely to be offered to voice talents on project posted by the Canadian company that now owns this popular casting site  (which is something the Canadian company, as a P2P, has been documented to do for some years now). But if the agencies drop the relationship with the new company, they will get commissioned on 100% on nothing. A key revenue source will be gone. How will they replace that lost revenue?

An ethical and financial quandary at the doorstep of voice talent agencies around the globe, all before breakfast.

These voiceover agents are small business owners just like you and me. Some are bigger than others and each has their other lead sources and contacts. Nonetheless, a decision either way impacts their bottom line.

A very hard decision, with unknown and unforeseen consequences, was before them. Take less of something or 100% of nothing.

I would like to introduce you to some people.

Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions

Jeffrey Umberger of The Umberger Agency 

Tanya Buchanan of Ta-Da! Voiceworks

These are three of my voiceover agents.

Liz Atherton of TAG Talent

Stacey Stahl of In Both Ears

Carol Rathe of Go Voices

Susie DeSantiago of deSanti 

These four folks are not my voiceover agents but like Erik, Jeffrey & Tanya, each faced a very tough business decision following the Canadian company’s purchase. And decide they did.

Each has notified the casting website that they are leaving and will no longer be a paying member. Their collective lack of respect for the new ownership and it’s reputation for depreciating voice talents, agents and their services seems to have helped them make their individual decisions.

There may still be more to add to the exit list, but right there are seven (7) examples of small business owners who individually faced a business problem head on, individually had a tough decision to make and individually made the decision to walk away from a table with money still on it (less though it will likely turn out to be).

The chance for them to lose significant income is very real. So are their mortgage, car and school payments. Doing the right thing can be very difficult on many different levels.

Everyday courage doesn’t often make it to the big screen. But that doesn’t make these specific acts any less courageous.

And courage like that, from people voice talents have trusted as partners in our careers, deserves our unwavering support. #voicestrong

don’t be a $5 voice actor

Twitter adIf you are brand spanking new to voiceover, this post is for you.

If you have attended VO Atlanta or some other massive voiceover meeting anywhere in the world with stars in your eyes on how you are going to become a voice actor, this post is also for you.

If you are an experienced voice talent and you have or currently use Fiver as a way to get voice jobs, you have my sympathies for your difficult financial conditions but you’d be better off reading Monster.com or Indeed.com to find a new job than reading this blog post.

That ad at the top of this post, that’s a real ad.

Some young or stressed or imbecilic media producer may actually think they are getting a pro voice talent for that fee.

The voice (and no, I won’t say “talent”) doing the job for $5.00 for that producer may think they are a “professional” voice because they are getting paid.

Neither the producer nor the voice is correct.

I’ll make this brief.

The journey to becoming a professional voice talent is as unique as the person living the journey and no two journeys are exactly the same. There is no perfect way, mine included.

But every journey has universal pitfalls and $5 voiceover jobs…most any VO job in that range of pricing is less a pitfall or a pothole as it is an enormous moon crater that go so deep you cannot see the bottom.

Just follow this advice: don’t be a $5 voice actor.

I hope this helps.

that place

Crescent Beach 2017If we are fortunate, and sadly not everyone is, each of us finds a place outside of home and outside of work that brings us peace and joy.

Sometimes it’s a nearby place, sometimes it is a far away place.

Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you have many “places”.

Wherever it is, it is a place where you feel at ease and maybe (as in my case) you’re family feels that same peace and joy there.

Having been there, I was reminded that I should remind you…go to that place.

Why?

Because it creates in you a special feeling, new or renewed thoughts, calmness…it might even have smells that bring back or create memories.

The computer is off and the phone is away.

This is not a pipe dream but rather something quite vital to your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being.

I’m really not kidding.

Sometimes, to get to that place, money is an issue. I respect that challenge, so I would encourage you to search for an interim place. Some place new and away from the norm that brings you peace and joy without stressing your wallet.

If you feel you don’t have time, I would like to encourage you to MAKE the time.

Life (yours or someone else’s) can end in a second.

Work is not life. Money is not life. Stress is not life. Those are mere elements of life that we each obsess over. Obsessing is not living.

Live life.

Find that place.

 

shooting cancels voiceover recording session

crime sceneThere have been a LOT of weird things that have taken place in my voiceover career.

I’ve had voiceover recording sessions cancelled for various reasons over that same time period but this recent situation may actually rank near the top of the list for strangest reasons to cancel a recording session.

As I tell this story, I will be omitting the city and the studio I was working with because I think this situation could reflect badly on both and that would be completely unfair. What took place could happen anywhere to anybody. Random violence is just that…random.

Lastly, to be very clear, I was never personally in any danger nor did I directly see the criminal activities about to be described. The bad stuff was over before I got there.

I was in Ohio recently and, while there, received an email from a long time client who needed a voiceover script recorded. I can do such recordings on my portable system but for this client, I wanted to use a studio.

So I called a studio in town that I have used before and booked a 10:00 am session. Nice studio, nice engineer, all good.

About 9:55, I turn the corner onto the street the recording studio is on and was met with a wall of police cars, maybe 5-7 cars completely blocking the road, lights flashing. Cops everywhere.

I could see past the blockade that road was completely clear, so I figured there must be a similar blockade down the road (turns out I was right).

Point is neither my car nor anyone else’s car was getting down that street. I look at my GPS and I was only 900 feet from the studio. But no person would be getting down the street either, unless they were wearing a police badge.

So I call the studio and the engineer answered his cell phone. He also could not get to the studio but had been advised by police that there was a shooting near (but not involving in any way) his studio. It just happened in the area near to the studio, similarly impacting all the other businesses and homes there.

Clearly we wouldn’t be getting to the studio anytime soon. I went back to my hotel, built my pillow fort and got the recording done there.

After gathering news reports, here is what happened.

Around 9:00 am, undercover police officers were targeting an area where drug deals are known to happen. Police there saw a deal take place and approached the suspect. The suspect ran to his car and tried to speed off , using his car to hit one police office as he tried to escape.

I’m not a lawyer or a cop but I believe that’s considered using a vehicle as a weapon, so police opened fire on the car, hitting the suspect who crashed his car not far from the original drug deal. The suspect later died; the police officer’s injuries were reported as not thought to be life threatening.

The reality is out there for all of us but, fortunately, we don’t see much of it from the front row like that.

#voicestrong

#voicestrongBefore I talk about #voicestrong and it’s impact on the voiceover industry, two quick observations.

You know the great thing about life? Everything is always changing.

You know the problem with life? Everything is always changing.

Three examples.

When audio technology improved to allowed more affordable, professional audio recording into people’s homes, it was a revelation. For the voiceover industry, it helped voice talents build better, very professional home studios. But it hurt recording studios who had to find new streams of revenue lost since voice talents were not recording in the studios’ booths.

With that audio technology update, more people could live their dreams of being a professional voice talent. But many of those folks were only dreaming, because they had neither the training nor the talent (or even business savvy) to operate a voiceover business. These less knowledgeable new voice talents also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

Advances in Internet technology also allowed companies to create on-line casting sites (known now as Pay 2 Play sites ((P2P)) for voice talents that allowed voice seekers to get hundreds of voiceover auditions with only a few mouse clicks and no in-person meetings. But voiceover agents, who for decades had managed those auditions and booked those castings, now have to work especially harder to secure those auditions and castings. Oh and the P2P model has also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

retail onlineThese examples are business realities in the voiceover industries. Change happens in every business. The old General Store lost to the local department store, who lost to Macy’s, who lost to Wal-Mart, who seems to be currently battling with Amazon.

Ones personal reaction to change in business is usually based on whether you’re being eaten or you’re doing the eating. So change, while not always pleasant, is always present.

But in the voiceover industry, there have been a few of these P2P players who have grown to be the biggest in their business category and, because of that scope, naturally have an impact on the industry.

I had been a member on both of these bigger P2P sites and have long ago since resigned and pulled my profiles from them.

In their infancy, both sites offered opportunities. But then their business models changed, adding elements of control to money transaction and job management that were at the least questionable and, in many states, likely illegal when it came to requirements of imposed by actual professional agents and managers – which is the category these new P2P business models put these P2P companies into (although they have denied such assertions).

I found their practices improper and unethical (to BOTH voice talents and the hiring companies) and I left the P2P sites I’m referencing. But their models still exist and thrive to the detriment of novice and (strangely, to my way of thinking) more experienced voice talents.

One has to respect that every voice talent has the right and even the obligation to run their business as they see fit. If they have a financial need to try and make money via Pay 2 Play voiceover sites, then the discussion is over for them.

Voiceover P2P Ethical Business audioconnell

They will not consider the downsides of Pay 2 Plays because they cannot do so…to do so would mean they would have to either drastically change their own business plans or even cease working in voiceover. I understand the financial imperative to them personally and I respect the argument.

And it also needs to be said that there is at least one other, smaller Pay 2 Play voiceover web site, run in Europe, that I believe is ethical and is not having as negative an impact on the voiceover industry, save for some projects with ridiculously bad fees that I personally noticed.

So if change is a constant in business and change has created large P2P companies who are negatively impacting the voiceover industry, what options do the rest of us have in what historically should be just another cycle of change, albeit what I and many others consider unethical change?

A simple answer is to publicly and repeatedly expose the unethical business practices of these large Pay 2 Play sites. Doing so will help new voice talents better understand the P2P playing field (and let them make their own decisions). It might also allow established talents to understand what their business relationship with these unethical P2P companies really mean to their business and the industry they hope to thrive within. They too will make their own decision.

My friend, Erik Shepard, who is also one of my longtime agents, has recently resurrected #voicestrong . The purpose of this campaign is to foster discussion about, and even put pressure on, the unethical business practices among Pay 2 Play voiceover sites. Erik made a video about his opinions (many of which I share – not all).

I believe the history of this particular hash tag in the VO industry came about after a rather unprecedented interview that voice talent Graeme Spicer of Edge Studio held with the CEO of possibly the most questionable and unethical of all the Pay 2 Play voiceover sites.

The interview, pretty infamous among those of us in the voiceover world, was a total public relations #fail for the CEO, who offered inconsistent and embarrassingly thoughtless answers to direct and reasonable questions about his own company’s documented and dubious business practices. A later presentation by the same P2P company at VO Atlanta in 2016 confirmed the company’s complete lack of respect for the voiceover industry and those who work in it.

Full disclosure – at one time, early in its creation, I was friendly with the CEO and his spouse who also works as an executive at this company. As their business methods changed, so did our interactions. There’s that change again.

If #voicestrong can help bring to light the unethical corporate business practices of those who I believe take certain advantage of people in my industry who might not know better, then I too am #voicestrong.

a voice talent at raleigh supercon

Raleigh SuperconSo you’re saying to yourself: ‘Peter, you are a voice talent, you’ve voiced a part in a video game, you’ve done character voices your whole life! How is the Raleigh Supercon your first ComicCon?’

The answer is: ‘I don’t get out much.’

None the less, today I went to my first ComicCon…well, bigger than that, it was a SUPERcon (had to make up for lost time).

Some truths before I begin:

  • I am not a gamer
  • I don’t have that much interest in Sci-Fi outside of Star Trek (loving almost all iterations) and Star Wars (and really only the first three movies)
  • I know Dr. Who’s Blue Phone Booth was important to the story but never watched an episode so I’m not cool (but you knew that I wasn’t cool already 🙂

So admitting all this, I might have lost lots of points with some of my friends and could have risked my admittance this Con had I said this before today.

In spite of the fact that I never got into video or on-line gaming and sci-fi stories personally, I appreciated the interest that they generated, which is part of the reason I wanted to go to a ComicCon. Plus, like I said, I’m a character voice actor – I knew I’d find something of interest to me.

Buffalo didn’t really have a Con of note. Raleigh, on the hand did. So it was off to the Raleigh SuperCon I went this morning.

What follows are some of my observations that may prove entertaining to those of you who have been to a ComicCon or enlightening to those of you who like me (before today) have never been.

Raleigh Supercon 2017 Saturday

  • Many bigger Cons take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – Saturdays are likely among the busiest days and just after it opens is really busy and you shouldn’t go then…cause the lines are long then, like around the block long (find shade or you will sweat, which I learned the hard way)
  • If you have Uber in your area, try and take it – it saved my bacon from dealing with crazy traffic around the venue and annoying parking
  • People attending the show were nice – normal, not weird; I wasn’t expect weird people but some people who haven’t been to Cons think everybody there is kind of wacko….no they generally aren’t (and yes, there are always exceptions)
  • I could only identify about 1/3 of the costume characters walking around (again, because I don’t follow the genres) but I really appreciated the creativity that everyone showed in their costume design and makeup
  • Clearly, everyone who wore costumes (Cosplay) were so happy to be out in their wares and among their people; it made me happy for them
  • While there are sessions on various topics and game rooms, I didn’t do any of that; I went right to the show floor
  • The show floor consisted of autograph alley (with all sorts “celebrities”) and then hundreds of vendors selling comic book, games, posters, costumes and every knick knack you can think of having to do with every character, story line, logo etc you could imagine (and other stuff you didn’t know existed)
  • The show floor has lots of interesting things to see but I didn’t buy anything…many others did, I am quite sure
  • Voice Talent Peter K. O'Connell, Author David Atkins and Voice Talent Greg HouserWhat made the show fun for me was catching up with my fellow voice talent Greg Houser (who I believe I first met in 2010 or 2011 at VOICE in Los Angeles); he’s been a voice talent in anime titles including “Evangelion”, “Ikki Tousen”, “One Piece”, “Shiki”, and “Tales of Vesperia” — he was signing autographs and presenting a seminar at Raleigh SuperCon

The question is whether I would recommend someone going to a Comic-Con based on this experience. Short answer: yes.

I think it was especially important for me to attend because I was NOT and am not a Sci-Fi or gamer person. However it’s good to be exposed to and event like this and enjoy the experience. Raleigh SuperCon did a nice job and I’m sure if a similar Con comes to your area, you’ll have fun too.